Leave your Situations at the Door

Leave your situations at the door

So when you step inside jump on the floor

– Mary J. Blige 

Staring in to the down gazing eyes of one of our athletes, it was clear that she was about to just give up on the day, if not the week. Hard work ebbing onto the floor, leaving a sullen shell to clear the rower and remaining kit away before shuffling out door defeated. 

HELL NO!

Not having that shit in this box! 

I don’t care what is going on in your life outside the box (well, I do actually but my upcoming point still stands), you do not allow it in to the box. Leave it at the door. I say this not from a standpoint of how it might affect the mood of others, nor how you’re not going to be on your game – both of those are valid – but from the this:

Your time in the box is your time. 

What you do in that hour is for you. It is your opportunity to develop, to succeed, to improve, and to win. How DARE the comments of colleagues, the stresses of work, or the rising cost of the bus fare impinge on YOUR time?! You have your goals, you have set out your plan, and you have paid your subs. The effort you put in within the hour we set for you is all yours. It is not to impress coworkers, it isn’t to think about tomorrow’s meeting, it certainly isn’t to worry about that note you forgot to write – all of those things are important but they won’t be solved in your hour with us.

This is YOUR TIME. Everything else can get f@#&ed. When with us, you are not judged, you are critiqued and not criticised, you have nothing to prove to anyone except to yourself.

How often in your daily routine do have to answer to none except yourself? How many times a day do you end something a stronger, faster, more powerful version of you than when you started? When else do you get to shut the world out and focus on your own needs? Give yourself over to this time, this chance, and kick the rest of the world in to touch.

This is YOUR time. How dare anyone ruin it for YOU. Own it. Dominate it. Leave as a fitter person, on YOUR terms, than when you came in.

Rant over.

Greatness comes from Joy…and a truck load of Hard Graft.

If you can’t find Joy in the path you are on and what you are working toward now,

how do you expect to find Joy when you get there?

I experienced 2 great lessons this weekend. Ones that we all ‘know’, that we’re all told over and over yet few truly believe or adhere to.

While at Wookey Hole Caves on Saturday, I was aggressively reminded that Greatness takes time. In our modern, consumerist, “now” society I think that many of us (certainly, not all) have collectively forgotten just what is required for true success to be achieved. There is a sense of entitlement pervading society; there is the belief that we somehow deserve success without having to put the true effort in to achieve it – we look at the cover models of Mens Health, or at Olympians, or CrossFit Games athletes and think, “I should be be there”. Yet, when you look around a cave formed over 10s of 1000s of years, and wonder at the splendid magnificence of it, you see that genuine greatness really does take time. When it was explained to us how the larger, 73 foot high caverns were formed, some beginning with nothing more than dripping water, you can’t help but make a comparison with modern life. I have my goals and I regularly get upset and frustrated that I have yet to achieve them. I often decry the length of time this process takes, missing the small gains along the way, focusing on the distance yet to travel. And I get upset because I feel that I deserve to be there by now. I put the effort in, I believe, and I am entitled to see the success NOW.

But life isn’t like that. Success takes time. Not only that, the successes along the way need celebrating too. I have no idea just how big that cavern is going to be in another 100, 1000, 10000 years but it’s pretty goddamn amazing now. I don’t know how strong, fast, flexible, powerful I will be next year, in 5 years, or in 10 years time, but I have put a lot of effort in and I am in a pretty outstanding place now. As long as I keep chipping away at it, one drop at a time, the only way is success.

The other lesson – Joy enables that Greatness. We were treated to a circus display from the Wookey Hole Circus School. These children and teenagers train 3 times per week and the ages seem to range from about 7 years to 17 years old. They showed off juggling, trapeze skills, strength, rope work, incredible balance & acrobatics, high unicycles, etc….it was clearly a physically and mentally tough performance for them all. There were some minor errors in the latter, and more complicated, stages but there was one thing that stood out throughout, especially during the minor mistakes – the sheer joy on the faces of those taking part. It  was amazing and incredibly uplifting. They were laughing at each other, constantly smiling, helping each other, and willing each other on through every moment. It looked like the world’s most fun ever and they were right in the centre of it. Sure, they had to demonstrate intense concentration to achieve some remarkable feats but never once did it look like pressure. At all times, it just looked like they were messing about with friends.

This is such a key lesson in life. When we look back, do we want to focus on the minor mistakes, the what-ifs, the could-have-beens, the oh-so-closes…..or do we want to look back on those moments of sheer joy and success with friends and family? Those fun-filled events where you achieved so much with a grin on your face, no matter what the adversity in front of you. I took a lot from this, especially as a parent to the Warrior Princesses.

Funnily enough, as I was thinking about this post, Andy Murray (tennis player bloke off the tele) was talking about this year’s Wimbledon prep. He said that in previous years he focused on the process, the preparation for winning-at-all-costs, that he didn’t really enjoy the success when it came. This year, he’s just enjoying his tennis, taking it how it comes and celebrating each little victory with a smile – a perfect case in point. Here’s to you and a third Wimbledon title, Mr Murray!

Strength

5-3-1 Strict Press

62.5kg / 70kg / 80kg / 85kg (F) / 82.5kg PERSONAL BEST!

So, 38 years old and still getting strength personal bests! Smash! It’s a 2.5kg PB over a lift 2 years ago. If I’d had a bit more time, I suspect I would have got the 85kg on another attempt too. BIG SMILES!

MetCon

For Time:

  • 50 x Double Unders
  • 10 x Clean & Jerk (Power) @ 50kg
  • 40 x Double Unders
  • 8 x Clean & Jerk @ 60kg
  • 30 x Double Unders
  • 6 x Clean & Jerk @ 65kg
  • 20 x Double Unders
  • 4 x Clean & Jerks @ 70kg
  • 10 x Double Unders

Time: 8:54 Rx

This would have been even quicker, had I not stopped to put my Vivoactive HR watch on to monitor!! Still, that took less than 5 secs so not exactly a game breaker 😀 😀 The temp here in Devon is peaking at about 28C which added to the spiciness of it all too. When I threw my scores on the the CF Watford Coaches WhatsApp group, I then found out that the head coach had increased the weights on-the-fly as she thought it would be too easy for people. Personally, I think it was absolutely bang on for my own requirements and I went for it. Thoroughly enjoyed it too!

Coming Up Next….. “Don’t let the shit get in the way of Your Time”

 

Setting an Example, Out at the Front, not at the Top.

 

We are the Coaches.We are empowered and entrusted to develop the health and wellbeing of athletes. We have a responsibility to Deliver. We Set the Example. We Lead from the Front.

This statement I firmly believe in and I would like to take this time to break it down.

The Whiteboard. Being a coach to athletes is not about being at the top of the whiteboard, day in and day out. As a coach, there is certainly a degree of credibility that comes from being in the top few % though. Who is going to follow the person who doesn’t demonstrate a strong level of all round fitness, regardless of their competencies. At least, not in this game, perhaps more so in elite, specific sports where the coach is intentionally detached from playing but who has demonstrated high levels of competence as a dedicated coach. In fitness, you trust the person who demonstrates fitness. As coaches, it is our job to make those around us better than us and so there will always be people above us on the whiteboard. Plus, time spent coaching is time spent not training which will have an impact.

Communication is about more than words. It is the sum of our words and deeds. Simply put, we cannot expect athletes to listen to what we say if we don’t follow it ourselves. We are being watched ALL THE TIME. Our words are just part of what we are saying. How we act, how we move, the example we set…these are powerful messages. Don’t get me wrong, I am hardly the most virtuous CrossFitter out there. I like chocolate, I like a little cake sometimes and I drink too much caffeine in the form of Monster Zero (yep, I do); I may or may not have a secret thing for Cool Doritos too. But in front of the athletes (and 80% of the time generally), it’s professional, competent and leading by example. While on communication, be careful to not overstep the bounds of your own knowledge – not rumour or heresay, knowledge. Bad advice and guidance, no matter how well intentioned, is bad advice and is not guidance. Seek help the moment you are outside your comfort zone. And then go and dive in to the books and learn!

Programming. If we are following completely different programmes then how do we sell our programme to the athletes? Standfast those on competitor programming vice General Physical Preparedness (although CrossFit opposes this view too), but if you turn up and stroll to the other end of the box to do your own thing while others are sweating in a heap on the floor then it screams, “this programme isn’t good enough for me but it’s good enough for you”. Back to my previous point about not being top of the whiteboard, you still have to be ON that whiteboard. Athletes want to see how they measure up against you; as coaches, it’s good to see where you measure up too.

Nutrition. In the words of the guy who took me through my Level 1, 5 years ago, “here be monsters”. Nutrition is a thorny subject – everyone is set in their ways, there are thousands of competing ‘diets’ and approaches. However, one thing that almost all agree on is to reduce/remove refined sugars, have some starch, have some nuts & seeds, eat lean protein, eat tonnes of beautiful, green leafy veg (REAL FOOD). Within that, you can weigh/measure/count what you like within your preference. Personally, as you know, I weigh my food for 5 days a week and see considerable benefits by the 35% Carbs / 35% Protein / 30% Fat model. Of course, quantities of each do depend on your activity levels and goals. BUT what is not included are heavily processed, manufactured, brightly coloured products that contain clearly artificial ingredients but which have killa names obviously designed to get you to part with your cash as quickly as possible.  As coaches, it is hard enough attempting to talk about basic nutrition while competing with highly-funded advertising, what is even harder is if trainers in your profession advocate them too – I should mention that this is not a common occurrence in CF Watford; it really isn’t. I’m merely highlighting a point as something that I have witness. The only way we can compete with dissociated advertising is with the up-close-and-personal approach that a coach delivers.

Effort. We might not be the best in the box. Our mobility might not be where it should be. We will have our ‘goats’ too – things to work on. But as coaches, we demonstrate the effort required to get to that next stage of fitness. We put in the full range of movement in the burpee box jump, and we explain why. We fight to maintain external shoulder rotation in the shoulders during overhead squats, and we explain why. The athletes have to see that we work as hard as they do in every facet of the coaching session. You might not think it but they are looking to see your progressions too. And this goes for that 6am session that we really didn’t want to get out of bed for too. The athletes made it, we need to bring our A-Game, even if we don’t feel like it.

Scaling. We might Rx most things…but we didn’t used to. Not only that, we shouldn’t always, either. Scaling plays its part in all our development but the coach scaling a workout occasionally will also send the message to some of the more ‘determined’ athletes, “hey, if coach is scaling, perhaps I should too”. You might have told that to scale a thousand times but nothing demonstrates “leave your ego at the door” better than actually doing it ourselves.

Jumping in on WODs. This is a habit that I started getting in on but have now drawn back from. CrossFit is not cheap. It is far more expensive than typical gym memberships, despite not having the free towels, DVD memberships, spas, beautiful changing rooms and TVs. It is expensive because athletes pay for the value that a coach brings in giving them the personal attention throughout the 60 mins of the day that they invest in. It is our duty to unrelentingly pursue their progression and development. If there is another coach present to take over then dive on in – athletes do want to compete against the coaches, after all. But ultimately, they pay for coaching; they didn’t pay for globogym.

So, that about covers it, I think, although I’m sure I’ll think of something else as soon as I publish this.

Is there anything you look for in your coaches? Are there strong examples out there that we could learn from? Are there bad examples out there that we can learn from?

Answers, not on a postcard, but in the comments box below.

Cheers.

Bring a notebook, support your local coach

“1930 Night Ninjas, bring a notebook, it’s in your interests 😈”

If there was one behaviour I could change at the local CrossFit level,  it would be for the athletes to bring a notebook to class.

As coaches/trainers, most of us are a bit geeky about seeing positive change in our charges. We read articles on programming, movement, fitness, nutrition, et al, often late in to the night, even when we know we have a 6am session to prepare for. We’ll take a question from an athlete and go away to find the answer as soon as we can. We like being innovative in delivering classes, ensuring as many people get the benefits of time with a qualified trainer as possible. We’ll explain why the workout is the way it is, what the athlete will get out of it, why the programming is structured this way or that.

We do this because we genuinely care about athletes’ development. We want to see growth and change; it’s why we become trainers and coaches.

And so it is so incredibly frustrating when a strength portion of a WOD calls, rightly, for the class to work at a certain percentage of a 1RM and for the response to be, “I don’t know what my 1RM is” despite us having spent the previous cycle working up to one. Or to suggest scaling and for the question, “what should I scale it to?” despite you having just spent the warm up working up to the correct weight or rep scheme. My particular favourite – being blamed when an athlete has to change the weight half way through a WOD because, “you didn’t tell me what to scale it to so I rx’d it”.

You’re right, I didn’t tell you. I didn’t tell you because typically, we have classes of 11-16 people. We have a membership of about 100 people. As a coach, I could not possibly hold on to all of that information – if I could, I wouldn’t be a CrossFit trainer, I would be a maths professor working on the Mars lander programme. This is the responsibility of the athlete. Only you know what you got last time, how many reps you did, how fast you went, what your weakness was and what your strength was. Yes, as coaches we need to know our athletes, I fundamentally believe that, but I cannot know your 1RM Push Press or how fast you can do 50 Bar Facing Burpees.

Bring a notebook to class.

Not a phone.

A notebook.

I know it sounds patronising but consider the effort a coach has gone to in order to give the best they possibly can to a class of people driven by their own distinct, individual goals and motivations. We could turn up, turn on the lights, shout “3,2,1, GO!”, sit back and then clear up after (we do these things too, and more). Would that be worth your money when you can go to any generic branded gym and do that for a fraction of the price? It certainly wouldn’t be worth my time to get out of bed at 0515 every day if that was all I was going to give.

Please, bring a notebook. Make a note of the workout. A quick note of your top lifts in the session and jot down your time / reps for the WOD. Add a line on which bits you struggled on and where you excelled – that’s all there is to it.

Then, when the coach suggests you spend 5 mins before a WOD working your weaknesses, such as double unders, pull ups, handstands, whatever, you can look back and immediately identify where you are currently imbalanced in your fitness journey. When the board says, “Push Press 5 x 3 @ 85% 1RM”, you can quickly flick back through and know your numbers. When the MetCon has, “20 x Deadlifts @ 70kg”, you can look back and see that you managed 15 unbroken last time and so have a goal of 20 unbroken this time! We can’t possibly know all of this stuff about you, only you can.

So, help out your local coach. If they put the effort in to give you the best possible route to your goals, do your bit as well. Taking a photo doesn’t count, you can’t reference it quickly or write notes on it.

Get a notebook.

 

Here, I’ll even give you a link, because I’m a coach and I care: Mega Cheap Notebooks

Level 2 CrossFit Trainer now, don’t you know.

Some months ago I realised that my Level 1 Trainer qualification was about to expire, after 5 solid years of training others in 3 boxes (1 of them my own). I took some time to reevaluate whether or not CrossFit Coaching would have any part in my future before shelling out another $1000 on another course.

You see, for coaches there are negatives as well as the considerable positives of developing other people. Not only do we get in to the box that little earlier, set the place up (and tidy it, more often than not), and leave later, but for many of us it comes at the not inconsiderable sacrifice of our own training and fitness. That one spare hour in the day that many use to fit in their training, for us is that same hour that we coach others. It’s slightly different if you own a box but even then not too much. 

I’d identified this issue at CrossFit Keelhaul and then it transpired too in CrossFit Plymouth. Of course, it’s the same in CrossFit Watford. Despite this, I’ve made strong advances in my overall fitness attributes; I even set a new Clean personal best yesterday after 18+ months of trying. However, it was “only” 103.5kg, a solitary 1kg (2.2lb) improvement. Compared to others of my CF experience, I am well off of the mark by about 5-10kg. Still, it was an improvement and I’ll take it! I’m not sure that many athletes see the distinction between the coaches and the athletes, often perhaps thinking, “well you work here, you should be the fittest”. True, we should be among the fitter members but most often we won’t be at the top, especially if you travel from afar to coach- there simply isn’t the time to get both in. 

It could be argued that we could take part in the sessions. I’ve never been comfortable with this approach although, yes,  I have done it. Athletes pay to be coached. This isn’t Globogym (“we’re better than you!  And we know it!”) where you check in, get ignored by the ‘trainers’, do you your thing alone and leave. CrossFit is different. As coaches, we do care about our charges. While we want them all to be safe, more than that we want them to improve and soar, exceeding their own expectations, and smashing goals. We can’t ensure that if we take part too. At intensity, movement becomes shitty and patchy – we’re there to sort it out.

And it was the Coaching of others that swung it for me and prompted me to look at the Level 2 course.  Discussing it with Charlie & Hat, they offered to front up the cash and then I’d pay them back in coaching sessions. With military discount of $200, that brought the cost down immediately.  Another £180 of military funding, plus VAT rebate on it made it much more palatable and so it was last weekend that I found myself at CrossFit Perpetua in Battersea, London.

Immediately greeted by Bobbi, a belle from North Carolina, the long haired, big bearded Matt from south Wales and “I left the navy recently so am letting the hair hang out” McCoy from Scotland (and head coach at CrossFit Thames), we sat ourselves down and awaited the knowledge.


From the outset, it was pacey but very well structured. A much smaller gathering than the Level 1 Course,  there was an obvious focus on us from the coaches.  The aim of the course was to focus on coaching others in the 9 foundational movements, as well as group management. We held each other in front squats, overhead squats,  presses, etc, and analysed the positions to the nth degree before highlighting appropriate language and cues to develop the positions of others. We deep-dived in to programming methodology and had a no-holds-barred presentation on how CrossFit should be delivered as a programme, even if as affiliates we really are encouraged to build as we see fit. No questions were off limits and I took the opportunity to dig in to some nutrition information despite it not being on the programme.

We were assessed throughout,  encouraged, and given brutally honest feedback.  All 3 coaches were absolutely critical in their assessment and pulled no punches. It was exactly what I needed. After 5 years, you do become a bit soft, lazy and set in your ways. You need professionals to step in and break it up, give us fresh perspective and,  perhaps more importantly, reenergise and reenthuse. Enthusiasm was definitely their watchword. I don’t know if, as individuals, they are always like it but they held extremely high energy levels for the whole weekend.  We were treated to 2 workouts too, one MetCon and a heavy strength. Both were delivered in the manner of a ‘ideal’ lesson plan and I took considerable notes throughout.
The collection of coaches from the UK and the world who made up our 21 person contingent was immense. Australia, Denmark, Holland, Croatia, USA….all brought their incredible experiences to bear as we learned about and from each other. It is a testament to the genuine life-changing abilities of the CrossFit community that people are willing to travel so far and wide to learn and progress. I truly believe that many of us will stay in touch as our own journeys succeed onward and send upward.

We departed late on Sunday afternoon, a little battered and stretched, new certificate in hand, and definitely with a spring in our step. I feel as I did after the Level 1, ready to employ everything I’ve learned with the athletes, and with energy. 

Next up for me will likely be to get stuck in to the Anatomy Primer and to do a few of the online courses. 

In the meantime, it’s about the athletes.

I’m feeling motivated.

Sometimes, you just have to get the work done. Just Do it. But prepare for the Zombie.

Fitness.

Because one day the Zombies will come.

zombieA full CrossFit session in the AM, inc. strength and a MetCon, the AMRAP Plus One Strength session in the evening, and then duathlon training. That was my yesterday. My morning today? Zombie. Coffee. Oats. Zombie.

After taking a day off last week mainly through laziness, and with weekends sacrosanct, I played catch-up yesterday, determined to get CF, Strength and the Running & Swimming in there too. I have 2 events on this week which take up space in my calendar where I’d otherwise be improving myself – that said, one of them is at a Steak restaurant so….you know….that might work too 😀

Yesterday AM @ CF Watford

3 x 3 Front Squats – 60/80/100kg. I intentionally kept it light, knowing I had more to come that day.

  • 20 Dumbbell Snatches
  • 30 Toes To Bar
  • 40 Box Jump Overs @ 24″
  • 800m Run
  • 40 Box Jump Overs
  • 30 Toes To Bar
  • 20 DB SnatchesCFW

Time: 14:56 Rx. This was supposed to be a partner WOD of double the reps but I was the odd man out; I still did the 800m Run though. It seems that it was a pretty fast time by comparison. Only the Toes to Bar were broken, everything else was done in a oner.

amrapplusoneEvening AMRAP Plus One Strength, Duathlon Training

  • Power Clean 2×3 @ 70%, 3×3 @ 75% – 62.5kg and 67.5kg
  • Power Jerk 2 x 3 @ 70%, 3 x 3 @ 75% – 62.5kg and 67.5kg
  • Straight Leg Deadlift 3×5 – 67.5kg

All light; I am forcing myself to trust in this programme, despite it having some pretty light stuff in there. I might usually be hammering myself at 85%+ otherwise. However, perhaps the light load was perfectly timed, given that I then had:

  • 2.4km Run
  • 1km Swim (Pool)
  • 2.4km Run

This is a slightly awkward one because I have to run with a rucksack to carry swim gear, water, ID card, wallet, phone, etc. The run was therefore never going to be fast, and it wasn’t. The swim was my first taste of what

being within a pack will be like – the pool was full, the lanes narrow and there were very different standards trying to train. It made it all extremely difficult to keep any pace or cadence but worthwhile as I ploughed through the 40 lengths. After that, a jog 2.4km back to camp, trying hard to will my body to move a little faster with each stride but feeling like I was pulling against a thousand invisible hands dragging me backwards.

And then Bed.

I find myself in front of the computer now, at 0640, having attempted to head over to the gym for my Strength session but having returned; feeling like a Zombie, hands and legs a little sore, fingers wrapped around my Ospreys RFC coffee mug. There was no way I was getting anything meaningful done this morning. I took a quick look at the CF Watford session tonight and realised that I can fit the two together rather neatly and so can sit here, eat my oats and start the day more sedately.
Continue reading

Motivating a Group, Training Under Fatigue

Motivational Quote

 

20170307_055327.jpg

Enough of these, thanks Dave.

Update

I hadn’t intended to train this morning. On the board to coach, I arrived in the box on cue at 0545 to get it set up, put the WOD up and motivate myself before meeting the athletes. As they arrived though, it was immediately obvious that the energy was lacking; you could feel it in the conversation, you could see it in the way people moved through the warm up and the drills. Early mornings are always tough to gauge anyway; you can’t give the same energy to a 6am session as you can for an end-of-the-week Friday night extravaganza, for example. As coaches, we have to be able to read the athletes and the group as a whole, and balance accordingly in order to get the best out of them.

So, I started slowly with the warm up, gradually trying to increase the tempo and enthusiasm; we upped the music; we chatted about 17.2 and about what might come up on Friday in 17.3. Nothing. Sure, everyone was working but there was no intensity.

So, I did what every good leader should do and decided to get stuck in and lead from the front. Picking one member of the group, Jav (and we’d gone head to head the night before in 17.2), I decided to really go for it, despite my rather sore glutes and generally fatigued state.

3…2…1…GO!

I’d love to say that by getting amongst it and giving my all I was able to motivate the group. I’m not entirely sure I did though. This is an area that I will revisit shortly. One of the factors is that despite training every morning together, they don’t even know each other’s names (some do) or anything about each other. In order to generate team cohesion and a sense of camaraderie, this has to be a baseline; like I said, more to follow.

I also had the evening class tonight but they’re a completely different kettle of fish altogether!

Strength

  • 4 x 12 Bulgarian Split Squats (per leg)
  • superset with 4 x 6 Straight Leg Kettlebell Deadlift (Single Leg)

2 x 12kg / 12kg / 12kg / 12kg (so, 24kg each time)

After last night’s lunges, my glutes and quads were wimpering throughout. There would have been no point trying to go heavier.

MetCon

18min AMRAP

  • 30 x Push Press @ 50kg
  • 20 x Wall Balls @ 9kg
  • 10 x Box Jump Overs @ 24″
  • 200m Run

Total: 3 + 20

I really pushed the pace on this one. The only thing to have any breaks were the push presses, broken in to 10s and 5s each time, never less – these slowed me right down. All Wall Balls unbroken and fast. Box Jump Overs were consistent. This surprised me quite a bit given how tired I feel. It does show that your body will do what your mind tells it.

The evening class. Determination in spades.

Nutrition

  • Pre-WOD: 1 x Banana
  • Breakfast: 60g Spelt Wheat / Oats with 250ml Protein Milk + 25g Whey Protein
  • Lunch: 3 x Scrambled Eggs, 70g Spinach, 90g BBQ Chicken Breast. 1 x Banana.
  • Dinner: Sunday Leftovers!! (love it!) of 2 x Lean Pork Sausages, 2 x Roast Potatoes, Parsnips, Carrots and Gravy
  • Snack: Battle Oats
  • Pre-Bed: 90g BBQ Chicken Breast